What is self-tanning and how does it work?


Not all of us are lucky enough to live near or by the beach where we can get the natural tan appearance. However, with the damaging effect of exposure to the sun, science and beauty experts have come up with a way to achieve sun-kissed glow without exposing one’s self to the harmful ultraviolet rays. Excessive sun exposure can cause wrinkles and may speed up aging. Hence, the sunless tanning.

Self-tanning or sunless tanning is an alternative to sunbathing. Self-tanning involves the application of chemicals to the skin to achieve sun tan. It has become popular after scientists and health experts have strengthen the link between exposure from the sunlight or tanning beds and skin cancer. In 1960, the first sunless tanning product by Coppertone was released in the form of a lotion. While self-tanner are commonly sold as lotion or spray that can be directly applied to the skin, there are also tanning pills and bronzers that emerged. Generally, self-tanning or sunless tanning is considered safe provided they are used as directed.

So how does a sunless tanner or self-tanner work? Before we move on to the specifics, it will be helpful to be reminded that self-tanning occurs in the epidermis or the outer layer of the skin. One active ingredient in self-tanning products is the dihydroxyacetone (DHA). The dihydroxyacetone is a colorless three-carbon sugar that, when applied, reacts with the dead skin cells. This reaction will result in a change of color and darkening the skin. As the skin gets a change in its color, you will likewise experience a starchy odor that usually comes during the tanning process. This odor is believed to be an indication of the progress of your sunless tan.

The color change is temporary and may last for only five to seven days. It is only temporary because only the stratum corneum, or the outermost layer of the epidermis, is stained. Eventually, this layer is shed by process of exfoliation especially with the use of exfoliating products or scrubs. Many have raised their eyebrows on the safety of the DHA. Since 1973, the Food and Drug Administration has approved DHA for external or self-tanning use. This is subject to an exception where the FDA has not approved the application of DHA near the eyes, mouth, or nose. It is advised to protect these parts of the body when applying self-tanning products, particularly in spray form also use one of the best self tanner on the market is very important.

Another method of sunless tanning is the use of bronzer. Bronzer, which is normally in the form of powder and moisturizer, stains the skin upon application. Unlike other methods, the stain from bronzer can be easily removed by washing it off with soap and water. For tanning pills, on the other hand, are generally considered as unsafe. They are said to contain canthaxanthin, which is used as color additive and in large amount when used as tanning agent. It turns your skin into an orange or brown color, which has been linked to liver damage, hepatitis, and visual impairment.